Alright, so most of the posts we provide you with here are factual and supply you with useful information. But today is not one of those posts. As most of you know I have been recently involved with the “Grid League” competing for a minor league team for the DC Brawlers. For those who are unaware, the NPGL, or National Professional Grid League, is a the latest edition to the world of fitness. It takes the sport of fitness and places emphasis on the team concept. The thing that makes these teams different is that the teams are co-ed and each team is required to carry a 40+ athlete on the roster. Team indirectly compete head to head on a grid through a series of 11 themed races which make up a bigger match. Last season was the inaugural season but there were a few hiccups that have forced to league to do a sort of “do over” season this year. The league itself is made up of 8 teams: DC Brawlers, San Francisco Fire, Phoenix Rise, Miami Surge, Boston Iron, New York Rhinos, Baltimore Anthem, and Los Angeles Reign. So with the 2015 season about to kick off, I along with lots of other fans are excited to see how this year shakes out.
After finishing up my first season, my eyes have been opened a little bit more to what works and what doesn’t work in terms of a successful team. Enter the Gridmaster. I don’t know who or what the Gridmaster is suppose to be but this entity recently put out a preseason ranking of all 8 teams in the league and as a fan and prospective competitor, I felt they were WAY OFF on a lot of their predictions. Now I understand that the league is trying to drum up website traffic and get people talking so some of the Gridmaster’s picks are meant to do just that. I will admit that I fell into that trap because I would get fired up reading some of his predictions. But then I got to thinking, predictions are a matter of opinion so if I had an issue why not state my opinion.
Now before I go through my pre-season predictions I want to make a few things clear. This is my opinion. I am basing my stance off of MY experience and what I know and feel works or doesn’t work with Grid. I don’t want people getting butt hurt because I could be way off, but I think I’ll be closer than the Gridmaster was/is. When it came to my picks there were a few things I looked for on each roster: 1. How good are their women? The league favors the women on the team, stronger women in particular. 2. How well rounded is the team? If you have 2 strong candidates in each desired field (barbell movers, body weight specialists, and gymnasts) with 1-2 good utility or garbage men/women (as I’ve affectionately heard them referred too) you can handle pretty much everything thrown your way. If you have a glaring hole you will be exposed on the Grid and the season may not go your way. 3.Experience and Continuity. Pretty self explanatory, but the champs from last season, the DC Brawlers were a team on not so popular names in the world of fitness but they trained and gelled together and were a force on the grid. I haven’t looked at the schedules or anything like that because honestly it doesn’t matter because everyone makes the playoffs so the whole season is just a big warm up for the real deal in my opinion. So with out further ado, here it is:
8. Baltimore Anthem
Now, let’s start this off by saying I have quite a bit of friends on this team and I want nothing but success for them , BUT a #2 ranking is a bit too high in my opinion. I simply have them 8th for one reason: They haven’t competed in a single match yet. Most first year franchises have some growing pains in their first season and they same may be true for Baltimore. They also have the most star power of any team with the signing of Dimitri Klokov, but as some teams found out last year you can have as many stars as you want but that doesn’t make a good team. The key to Baltimore and every team’s success will be how well the “stars” want to share time and reps with the others on the team.
7. Boston Iron
I’ll be completely honest, Boston was the whipping post of the league last year. They had a few bright spots during the season last year but overall were not a complete team. They have added some heavy barbell movers on the women’s side but I feel like their men are lacking on the heavy movements. I’ve heard that some of the races this year will have heavier components than last season and I don’t know if they have any guys that can handle 600+lb deadlifts, 400 lb cleans, or 300 lb ssnatches after going through a grueling match.
6. LA Reign
Now before folks (and my dude Rob Blackwell, love ya buddy!) get all up in arms, picks 2-6 are literally a toss up and I put names in a hat and drew them out because I couldn’t make a clear decision. The Reign have star power and I love the additions this year of James Townsend and Rob Blackwell. I can’t wait to see them run through the ladders. But as I said earlier I think a team needs two solid players in each category. To me Lindsey Valenzuela is a legit barbell mover but she needs solid counterpart to handle all the heavy components of races. The further into the playoffs a team goes the heavier the races will get so I feel like LA will go as far as their women barbell movers can take them.
5. New York Rhinos
New York has probably one of the best male body weight specialists in Irving Hernandez and loaded up on barbell movers on both the men and women’s sides. I really think this team will be the biggest surprise of the season and the Gridmaster’s pick of them in 8th place is simply wrong. As stated before they are 5th based off of what order I pulled them out of a hat. I can’t wait to see my fellow Outlaw teammates Wes Kitts and Nick Bloch moving all kinds of weight this year.
4. Phoenix Rise
Phoenix has one of my favorite players to watch in barbell mover Danny Nichols. I was in the crowd last year when he touch and go-ed 330# in the power clean and jerk for 2 reps. That is the definition of a closer but if they don’t have a solid #2 barbell mover they may not be able to rely on Nichols the entire season. Who knows again, this one was a toss up. They returned most of the main roster from last year so they only got better.
3. San Francisco Fire
Again another toss up. Most of their main roster returns and they added more depth to this team. Obviously you would think they will only get better, but you never know. The only question I have is how will they fill the hole left by Sam Dancer. He was their main barbell mover as well utility player for other elements. I watched him go perform each element of a triad race (three stations of movements in each quadrant and probably the hardest race of a match in my opinion) last season during their quarterfinal match and was pretty impressed with that for a bigger guy. San Fran did draft capable folks in Will Hall and Adam Cantrell to fill the gap, but how will they gel with the rest of the veteran runner-up team from last season.
2. Miami Surge
This team surprised folks last year with a semifinal loss to the eventual champs but I feel like they have the best collection of athletes in the league and they added even more this season. The team has their specialists but most of them are also really good at other aspects of the races. It will be interesting to see how well they gel and roll throughout the season. I’d also be lying if I said I wasn’t biased towards the five outlaw athletes on the roster but oh well.
1. DC Brawlers
To be the man you got to beat the mean (insert Ric Flair “WOOO” here). The defending champs didn’t lose much from their squad and added talent to an already loaded roster. As I stated earlier teams will ride and die by their women, adding super rookie Becca Day alongside 2014 League MVP Taylar Stallings is going to be a hard duo to beat when a barbell is in their hands. Not to mention Ken Battiston on the other side who touch and go-ed 2 power cleans with 350 lbs and then power cleaned the third rep to clinch the title last year. Until they are beaten they are still my number 1 pick for the Championship this year.
Well there you go. When the dust settles at the end of the season I see DC standing on top of the mountain again. But just like with any sport, you never really know how the whole season will shake out. Injuries, coaching, managerial changes, etc. can all effect the season and things can be turned upside down in a heartbeat. Regardless, I can’t wait to watch each match and see how it goes. All the matches will be on NBC Sports and live streamed so if you didn’t have any plans on watching please do. The matches are just fun to watch and easy to follow. If you want to see some Grid races or want to see what Grid is all about tune into NBC Sports or go to the NPGL YouTube page where the matches are streamed June 13 at 2 PM PST for Opening Weekend.